Playing Business Games

Michael Vizard

IBM has come up with a novel approach to training managers to make business decisions informed by IT.

Starting today the company is formally making available CityOne, an online game that the company developed as part of its ongoing effort to educate customers about how IT can be used by government agencies and organizations that work with them to create a Smarter Planet.


IBM has been developing CityOne in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency since the beginning of the year. The EPA provided the city-management issues that players will have to resolve while IBM contributed case histories based on its experience deploying IT systems for various government agencies.

Nancy Pearson, vice president of marketing for IBM Software, says it's more than likely that IBM will apply this game approach to other business processes, which might be the most really interesting about CityOne. After all, training's biggest problem is that it's so often boring. So people don't pay as much attention as they should, and they are unable to correlate any of the information they learned to any real-world events.

CityOne is designed to be played by one person at a time, though it might allow multiple players in the future. But the single-player version at least makes people think, which is supposed to be the purpose of training.

So while there may be a tendency to dismiss gaming as a waste of time, there is something to be said for making training fun. Not only will employees be more engaged with the business, they will be able to operate at a higher level that could fundamentally advance the business someday. So don't be surprised one day if we see a whole series of online business games. After all, if business is a form of war-and the most popular online games tend to be about war-it stands to reason that business games eventually will find a niche alongside Halo and a host of other war games.

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